In her fourth novel (after The Way Life Should Be), Kline traces the construction and collapse of two long-term relationships. On her way home to New Jersey after an awkward party for her lifelong friend Claire's highly autobiographical first novel, Alison gets into a car accident that kills a boy in the other car. Even though the accident wasn't her fault, Allison, a mother of two young children, is wracked with grief and guilt. Her husband, Charlie, also struggles with the impulse to blame his wife, especially as he longs for any excuse to escalate his nascent affair with Claire and end his marriage. Episodes detailing the inevitable collapse of Alison and Charlie's marriage, as well as Claire's marriage to her well-meaning husband, Ben, are interspersed with vignettes revealing the four friends' 10-plus-year history together. Shifting perspectives and thoughtful interior monologues reveal just how isolated, and in some cases misguided, the characters are. Kline's unflinching gaze and lovely prose sets Kline's novel apart from the herd of infidelity/marital ennui novels. It's well-done, thoughtful and thought provoking. (Aug.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Bird in Handby Christina Baker Kline
Four people, two marriages, one lifelong friendship: everything is about to change
It was an accident. It was dark, it was raining, Alison had only had two drinks. And the other car ran the stop sign. But Alison finds herself trapped under the crushing weight of grief and guilt, feeling increasingly estranged from her husband . . ./p>/p>… See more details below
Four people, two marriages, one lifelong friendship: everything is about to change
It was an accident. It was dark, it was raining, Alison had only had two drinks. And the other car ran the stop sign. But Alison finds herself trapped under the crushing weight of grief and guilt, feeling increasingly estranged from her husband . . .
Charlie, who has his own burdens. He's in a job he doesn't love so that Alison can stay at home with the kids (and why isn't she more grateful for that?); he has a house in the suburbs and a long commute to and from the city. And the only thing he can focus on these days is his secret, sudden affair with . . .
Claire, Alison's best friend. Bold where Alison is reserved, vibrant where Alison is cautious, Claire has just had her first novel published, a thinly veiled retelling of her childhood in North Carolina. But even in the whirlwind of publication, Claire can't stop wondering if she should leave her husband . . .
Ben, an ambitious architect who is brilliant, kind, and meticulous. And who wants nothing more than a baby, or two—exactly the kind of life that Charlie and Alison seem to have. . . .
In each of her novels, Christina Baker Kline has explored how people tell the stories of their lives and what those stories reveal about who they are. As they set out on their individual journeys, Alison, Charlie, Claire, and Ben explore the idea—each in his or her own way—that every moment of loss contains within it the possibility of a new life. Alternating through these four intertwined perspectives, Bird in Hand is a searing novel about friendship, love, marriage, loss, and the choiceswe make that irrevocably alter everything we believe to be true.
In one life-altering moment driving home from a book release party to her New York suburban neighborhood, Alison Gray can't avoid a collision when another driver runs a stop sign. The little boy riding in the front seat of the other car is killed. In the weeks following, Alison's guilt makes it hard for her to parent her own children. Alison's husband, Charlie, first reproaches her for drinking two martinis that night, then dutifully tries to be supportive, but the neighbor they barely know manages to help Alison more. As the story of Alison and Charlie's eight-year, on-autopilot marriage unfolds, so does the history Charlie shares with Alison's best friend, Clare, and her husband, Ben, going back to their days as American grad students in London. When Charlie and Clare begin an affair, everyone is forced to make decisions about the future. VERDICT Though it covers familiar territory (young adults approaching middle age), Kline's fourth novel (after The Way Life Should Be) exhibits an unsparing eye for the telling details that reveal how people think and act. Readers who enjoy thoughtful family dramas and stories about marriages and relationships (e.g., Jodi Picoult, Anita Shreve) may want to try this. It's also good book club choice, with a reading group guide. [See Prepub Alert, LJ4/15/09.]—Laurie A. Cavanaugh, Brockton P.L., MA
Laurie A. Cavanaugh
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)
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Bird in Hand
It had been a rainy morning, and all through the afternoon the sky remained opaque, bleached and unreadable. Alison wasn't sure until the last minute whether she would even go to Claire's book party in the city. The kids were whiny and bored, and she was feeling guilty that her latest freelance assignment, "Sparking the Flame of Your Child's Creativity," which involved extra interviews and rewrites, had made her distracted and short-tempered with them. She'd asked the babysitter to stay late twice that week already, and had shut herself away in her tiny study...mudroom, really...trying to finish the piece. "Dolores, would you mind distracting him, please?" she'd called with a shrill edge of panic when three-year-old Noah pounded his small fists on the door.
"Maybe we shouldn't go," she said when Charlie called from work to find out when she was leaving. "The kids are needy. I'm tired."
"But you've been looking forward to this," he said.
"I don't know," she said. "Dolores seems out of sorts. I can hear her out there snapping at the kids."
"Look," he said. "I'll come home. I have a lot of work to do tonight anyway. I'll take over for Dolores, and then you won't have to worry."
"But I want you there," she said obstinately. "I don't want to go alone. I probably won't even know anybody."
"You know Claire," Charlie said. "Isn't that what matters? It'll be good to show your support."
"It's not like she's gone out of her way to get in touch with me."
"She did send you an invitation."
"Well, her publicist."
"So Claire put your name on the list. Come on,Alison...I'm not going to debate this with you. Clearly you want to go, or you wouldn't be agonizing over it."
He was right. She didn't answer. Sometime back in the fall, Claire's feelings had gotten hurt...something about an article she'd submitted to the magazine Alison worked for that wasn't right, that Alison's boss had brusquely criticized and then rejected, leaving her to do the work of explaining. It was Alison's first major assignment as a freelance editor, and she hadn't wanted to screw it up. So she'd let her boss's displeasure (which, after all, had eked out as annoyance at her, too: "I do wonder, Alison, if you defined the assignment well enough in the first place. . .") color her response. She'd hinted that Claire might be taking on too many things at once, and that the piece wasn't up to the magazine's usual standards. She was harsher than she should have been. And yet...the article was sloppy; it appeared to have been hastily written. There were typos and transition problems. Claire seemed to have misunderstood the assignment. Frankly, Alison was annoyed at her for turning in the piece as she did...she should have taken more time with it, been more particular. It pointed to something larger in their friendship, Alison thought, a kind of carelessness on Claire's part, a taking for granted. It had been that way since they were young. Claire was the impetuous, brilliant one, and Alison was the compass that kept her on course.
Now Claire had finished her novel, a slim, thinly disguised roman à clef called Blue Martinis, about a girl's coming-of-age in the South. Alison couldn't bear to read it; the little she'd gleaned from the blurb by a bestselling writer on the postcard invitation Claire's publicist had sent..."Every woman who has ever been a girl will relate to this searingly honest, heartbreakingly funny novel about a girl's sexual awakening in a repressive southern town"...made her stomach twist into a knot. Claire's story was, after all, Alison's story, too; she hadn't been asked or even consulted, but she had little doubt that her own past was now on view. And Claire hadn't let her see the manuscript in advance; she'd told Alison that she didn't want to feel inhibited by what people from Bluestone might think. Anyway, Claire insisted, it was a novel. Despite this disclaimer, from what Alison could gather, she was "Jill," the main character's introverted if strong-willed sidekick.
"Ben will be there, won't he?" Charlie said.
"So hang out with him. You'll be fine."
Alison nodded into the phone. Ben, Claire's husband, was effortlessly sociable...wry and intimate and inclusive. Alison had a mental picture of him from countless cocktail parties, standing in the middle of a group with a drink in one hand, stooping his tall frame slightly to accommodate.
"Tell them I'm sorry I can't be there," Charlie said. "And let Dolores know I'll be home around seven. And remember...this is part of your job, to schmooze and make contacts. You'll be glad you went."
"Yeah, okay," she said, thinking, oh right, my job, mentally adding up how much she'd earned over the past year: two $50 checks for whimsical personal essays on smart-mommy Web sites, $500 for a parenting magazine "ser-vice" piece called "50 Ways for New Moms to Relieve Stress," a $1,000 kill fee for a big feature on sibling rivalry that the competition scooped just before Alison's story went to press. The freelance editing assignment with Claire had never panned out.
"The party's on East End Avenue, right?" he said. "You should probably take the bridge. The tunnel might be backed up, with this rain. Drive slow; the roads'll be wet."
They talked about logistics for a few minutes...how much to pay Dolores, what Charlie might find to eat in the fridge. As they were talking, Alison slipped out of her study, shutting the door quietly behind her. She could hear the kids in the living room with Dolores, and she made her way upstairs quietly, avoiding the creaky steps so they wouldn't be alerted to her presence. In the master bedroom she riffled through the hangers on her side of the closet and pulled out one shirt and then another for inspection. She yanked off the jeans she'd been wearing for three days and tried on a pair of black wool pants she hadn't worn in months, then stood back and inspected herself in the full-length mirror on the back of the closet door. The pants zipped easily enough, but the top button was tight. She put a hand over her tummy, unzipped the pants, and callipered a little fat roll with her fingers. She sighed.Bird in Hand. Copyright © by Christina Kline. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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